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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Told you so!

A helpful comments points out that I made this prediction before the election:

"Bachmann wins and humiliates herself immediately nationally."

Yes, I would say that I nailed that one.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sweet Bachmann-Bush lovin'

You've already seen this by now, but that doesn't make it less creepy.

She. Is. Nuts. Something tells me that in the back of her head, there's this nagging thought that she and Bush could "hook up" and bring about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, if you know what I mean.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pawlenty's budget

I don't think Pawlenty has the triangulating thing down. His budget is only impressive in the way that it manages to piss off both sides.

First, this is by no means a conservative budget. A 9% increase in spending? How is that "smaller government"? A tiny fraction of the surplus spent on tax relief? Lots of borrowing for transportation? I can't see how conservative Republicans can support this budget at all.

But it doesn't go far enough for Democrats either. No promise to provide health care coverage to all kids. No all-day kindergarten. No new transportation money. A somewhat convoluted school "rewards" system that will only serve to reward the schools that don't need the help.

All in all, there is very little leadership in this budget. Pawlenty says that the "status quo" isn't good enough, but he maintains the status quo in plenty of areas. Has he given up? Is he tired? Or is there some other explanation for the lack of inspiration in this budget?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

State of the State

Governor Pawlenty gave his State of the State address today, and it was mainly focused on education. To be honest, I was not terribly impressed by the details of his plans, nor by the rhetoric.

I am not a huge fan of our current school system. In fact, I think it stinks in many ways. But Pawlenty's digs at schools seemed pretty sad. If you are going to bash schools, go all the way; don't talk about how students are "coasting" with backpacks full of papers. That is insulting to both teachers and students. Say that students are slackers because they aren't fluent in a language other than English by the time they graduate, or that they haven't taken mandatory AP classes, or that they got out of high school without four years of math, four years of science, four years of literature, and four years of social studies. Those are the standards you want to set.

I don't think I agree with his proposal to give schools with high ratings extra money. That just rewards the schools with the most resources to begin with. I would much rather see a system that rewards schools for the size of their improvement. A crappy school that drastically improves itself over a few years deserves much more support than a suburban school that starts out fantastic and doesn't improve much. I know that may not be popular, and I know it's very hard to come up with the right incentive program to reward and punish the right people, but basing it on raw scores is not a good idea. So the "three stars" plan is not a good one.

All day kindergarten? Yes, so why wasn't he supporting it? Why isn't he supporting investments in our transportation infrastructure? Or giving all kids health care? Because he's Pawlenty, I guess.

A property tax cap is a non-starter to me too. Look, Republicans: you can't have it both ways. Either you support a bottom-up government, in which case local governments can do whatever they want with property taxes, or you support a top-down government, where the feds and the states dictate what is acceptable and what isn't. Make up your mind. Personally, I support the bottom-up approach, and once upon a time Republicans at least paid lip service at least to that thought.

Other than that, there wasn't much interesting. Pawlenty sounds less Republican these days, but I still wouldn't turn my back on him.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Farm Bill

Here's an idea for the new farm bill: how about no farm bill at all? No subsidies. No price supports. No programs. No corporate giveaways (let's expand that to all businesses).

Why should we have governmental control of agriculture through quotas and price controls?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Star Tribune's big wet sloppy kiss

Read this and vomit. I sure hope Norm bought the Star Tribune dinner first before this shameless example. A political life "marked by nimbleness"? More like a life marked by flip-flopping and saying whatever it takes to sleaze his way to the top.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Today in the Senate

Today in the Minnesota Senate, they voted to increase their per-diems and housing allowances by 45% and 25% respectively. I am not a fan of the per-diem increases. Salaries are too low for legislators, so raise the salaries, not the "extras".

They also revealed a convoluted plan to cover all people with health insurance by 2010. The plan would cap insurance rate increases and increase eligibility for MinnesotaCare. I think this is a stupid way to go about covering people, and I find the arbitrary insurance rate increase cap particularly divorced from reality. You want to cover everybody? It's called single-payer. No arbitrary caps, no mandates, no stupid tricks. Expanding health care coverage is a good idea, but doing it in crazy ways doesn't help. The faster we get to the system we will eventually have, a single-payer system, the better. No point in taking the scenic route.

Dumb and dumberer

If these are the kinds of ideas that House Republicans are going to be putting forward, they should get used to being in the minority, because they will be there for a long time.

It's not really surprising. The new Minority Leader, Marty Seifert, has always enjoyed stupid gimmicks much more than rational policy. After all, he was the person behind such brilliant proposals as banning dessert in prisons, fining welfare recipients who smoke, requiring the Pledge of Allegiance to be spoken only in English, and English-only drivers license exams.

His new proposals are requirements that Minneapolis and St. Paul (and only those two cities) spend 100% of their LGA funding on public safety, and a ban on the use of taxpayer money for buyouts of coaches' contracts at the U of M (despite the fact that taxpayer money isn't used at all). Yes, that's the way to capture the imagination of the public.

Not only are these proposals plain stupid, but what happened to Republican values? What happened to local control? I remember how, in the wake of the Contract with America, Republicans abolished the strings attached to federal money and instead gave it to the states in block grants to use as they saw fit (see: welfare). Republicans supposedly believed at the time that the closer you got to the people, the better the decisions would be, and that mandates from higher up were bad. They are bad, except for when they aren't.

I expect to see lots of funny proposals from Rep. Seifert in the next couple of years. Should be fun if you aren't a Republican hoping to win back the majority.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Somebody asked why I don't do Katherine Kersten's Korner anymore. Aside from the positive benefits to my sanity that accompanies not reading that garbage, it's just a waste of time. She seems to have three major themes: today's was Those Darn Kids Today, joining Those Dang Democrats and Watch Out For Teh Gay as covering the kolumns that aren't focused on feel-good local stories. Do I really need to comment on the increasingly irrelevant musings of a curmudgeon?

A pander too far

I think that we should do a lot of things for veterans. Tuition help, health care, mental health support, even housing assistance is all fine with me. But exempting them from state income taxes? That's a bit much.

Being a tax policy purist, I think there generally needs to be a very good reason for exempting anything from taxation. I don't see any good reason here other than trying to win votes and allow people to feel good about themselves. Stretch our National Guard to the limit, don't give troops the equipment they need, but if they make it home they won't pay taxes!

Sorry, but I'm not that cynical or easily bought off. Besides, something tells me that this proposal isn't going to do much to help the roughly 50% of homeless people who are veterans.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Roads aren't built for free

Nobody likes paying more in taxes. But I don't know of many people who enjoy sitting on the Crosstown mired in traffic either. Our state's highway system is in sad shape, and it's going to cost money to fix it. I think the transportation plan being put forward is a good idea.

We wouldn't need to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon right now had we been responsible and increased it sometime during the past 18 years or so, but we didn't so this is what we face. The reductions in license tab fees we got in the late 90s were fun, but times have changed. A regional sales tax has proven to work wonders in Denver and other metropolitan areas in terms of jump-starting transit. These aren't pie-in-the-sky, untested ideas. These are solutions to a very real problem.

I sure am not going to relish paying more in taxes. But I am sick of hearing how the Crosstown reconstruction is delayed or we don't know when we will finish the 610 or the new 212 or turning highway 52 into a freeway between St. Paul and Rochester. Public infrastructure is one of the core duties of government. It's time to act like adults and fix things.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Legislature reconvenes

The first day of session was rather low-key. What happens now doesn't mean much. Let's wait to see what happens when the major decisions are made.

Fine with me

The airport wants to crack down on taxi drivers refusing to give rides to passengers carrying alcohol or service dogs. That's fine with me. The only question I have is how the proposed punishments (30-day suspension for the first offense, two years second offense) compare to other offenses; for example, what's the punishment for refusing to carry a passgenger based on race?

No matter what religion you are, there is no excuse for refusing service. Whether you are a Muslim taxi driver who doesn't like alcohol or a Christian pharmacist who doesn't like birth control, suck it up and do your job, or find another line of work.